(About a 4 minute read)
It it is a peculiar fact that America stands entirely alone in the world as the only nation in which the ideology of Ayn Rand is not laughed away as immature rubbish. Yet, I myself can almost see the attraction of her ideology.
I was briefly attracted to it myself when, at age 15, I read Atlas Shrugged. Back then, as today, I was willing to force myself to adopt views if they seemed to make sense, and if I could not find sound reasons to oppose them. At 15, Rand’s views satisfied both requirements, and though I was upset to discard my former views, I conscientiously adopted hers.
For awhile. I’m not sure when it was that I grew up and gained enough knowledge and experience of things to know that, while her views were logical enough, the actual facts contradicted them. Rand possessed superior logical skills, but was less than remedial in her grasp of the empirical sciences and even of history.
Today I recognize and accept the fact that most of Rand’s ideology is obscene, as ideologies go. Obscene in the sense that if practiced it would surely and certainly lead to an oligarchy that then would be inclined to turn into a dictatorship.
No doubt Rand herself never intended that, but she was much more a reactionary against what she called “collectivism” than she was a foresighted thinker. In fact, Rand was a poster child for both the folly and the comedy of being a mere reactionary against anything — would only our reactionary age fully grasp that mistake!
Hence, it strikes me as odd that Rand has had in America a decisive influence on libertarian thought. It’s like inviting Popeye the Sailor Man to develop a nation’s naval strategy.
Now, I felt all of the above was necessary to say precisely because Rand’s influence on libertarian thought has been huge, but I am under no naive illusion that libertarian thought begins or stops with Rand. Indeed, there may be twenty or more forms of libertarian thought that range across the political spectrum from extreme left to extreme right.
So many forms, and such a range to them, that nearly everyone, I think, can at least be sympathetic to one or more of them. Moreover, the core principle that seems to unite all of them is attractive in itself. “The freedom of the individual should be maximized to the full extent that is reasonably possible”.
The principle immediately strikes me as not only almost compatible with my own political ideals, but as also nearly noble. In fact, I believe it would be noble indeed if only human nature were just a bit different than it is.
Alas! It is not. We are what we are, and we are not merely an individualist species of animals, we are simultaneously a social species, too. Hence, I much prefer my own human ideal to the libertarian one. “The ideal human adult is a strong, self-flourishing individual who is both socially and environmentally responsible.”
As I said, our ideals are pretty close, but not identical. I have two chief criticisms of libertarian thought, both of which I myself find fatal and irrefutable. The first I have already stated here in its gist. We are as much social animals as individualistic animals.
So far as I can see, libertarians must either accept both that fact and its significance, or reject both near entirely. But the fact is not pulled down from the clouds — it is in solid accord with our current understanding of human evolution. We evolved in relatively large social groups that crucially relied on cooperation for survival.
To say that by itself means we must be socially responsible would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy. That is it would be to reason that because nature is X, we must conform to X.. But consider this: Our social nature can no more be denied than our born instinct for lying. You might ameliorate either, but you will drastically reduce neither one.
So my first criticism of libertarian thought is that it fails to fully take into account our social side. My second criticism is just as severe in its implications. Libertarian thought if adopted into practice would eventually result in the obscenity of tyranny. But I have demonstrated how that would inevitably happen in a post you can find here. So I won’t repeat myself now.
So far as I can see, neither criticism can be refuted.